Remember the archivists’ rallying cry!

Periodically, people go through attics and storage boxes and send items to the archives that are related to IWU history. Sometimes amazing finds arise from the people who take time to send them “home.”

Just today I opened a box that held Student Senate Minutes dated May 17, 1970…how timely! On May 4 of this month, we took part in a commemorative event for the 45th anniversary of the Kent State killings in 1970. Documentation for events on our campus that were recounted in that blog post were limited to the Argus, Wesleyana and a few photographic files.

While researching that event, I marveled to discover that the IWU archives holds no Student Senate meeting minutes from March 22, 1970 until January 10, 1971.

It sure would help us appreciate the Senate’s actions if we had the primary sources they created to consult! Don’t get me wrong, the news sources are great to have, but it’s these kinds of gaps that make anyone doing historical research a little crazy.

So yes, it was good to see minutes in a recent donation, but it was a huge letdown to find that pages 2-15 of those minutes had been removed. We may never know why that happened, but on the very last page there is evidence that helps us understand a little more about the May 1970 student reactions in that turbulent month. The first image below was scanned from the minutes and it contains an announcement that the Black Student Union was responsible for the walkout. From this brief note, we also find out why they felt compelled to walkout 14 days after Kent State.

There was also a green flyer (image below) that explains the Peace Symbol students wore during Commencement in 1970–that event was also described in the previous post on the May 4th commemoration. These kinds of documents connect us with our past in tangible ways…stop by the archives if you want to see the real things someday!

Think you can’t make a difference? There’s only one way to find out…if you ever come across Senate records — or other records from IWU — give me a call! (309-556-1538)

And here’s a catchy little phrase to help reinforce the point:
When in doubt, don’t throw it out!

[click on images to enlarge]

Flyer stating reason for wearing the peace symbol at Commencement.

5×7″ flyer stating reason for wearing the peace symbol at Commencement.

45 years after Kent State #May4Matters

1971Wesleyana_flagpoleIn the early days of May 1970, Illinois Wesleyan University joined more than 1,250 colleges in protesting the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. In coordination with the May 4 Visitor’s Center, today the archives is remembering four students who died at Kent State University and looking back at the effects that these killings had on students at IWU.

Below is a timeline of student activities and images drawn from the collections in IWU’s archives. If you have memories, documents, or photos of your own to share, feel free to comment but use the #May4Matters so that IWU’s recollections will join others who are commemorating this day.

“The Kent State killings set off a planned program of protest and community education unlike anything previously seen at Wesleyan. It brought together an unlikely coalition of ex-Senate officers, freshman activists, moderates, radicals, tired seniors and enthusiastic underclassmen.” — Kathy Larey Lewton. IWU 70, in the 1971 Wesleyana, pp 6-8)

The events of May 5-8 were reported on in the Friday, May 8 issue of our weekly student newspaper The Argus. The links for each day in the timeline below lead to the pages in that issue containing the stories mentioned.

Tuesday, May 5: 11:40AM The flag was lowered to half mast “in mourning of the four students killed at Kent State University and those who have died in Southeast Asia.”     Following a 3:30PM meeting with 200 students attending, “The consensus was that the goals should be campus and community education, rather than alienation.”

Wednesday, May 6: Memorial services led by Chaplain William White. “Students scattered in the audience then read ‘some words for reflection in a time of. crisis.'”

Thursday May 7: President Robert Eckley cancels classes “to permit those who wish to participate in the activities planned by the Action Committee for Peace.” The decision followed a vote by Student Senate Wednesday calling for classes to be recessed all day Friday to acknowledge the incident at Kent State and the expanded Southeast Asian war.

Friday, May 8: The Action Committee for Peace (ACP) announces organizes a group assembly on the Quad at 3:45PM for a march to downtown Bloomington. 7:00PM rally with faculty and students speaking on campus.

The May 8th Argus also includes a range of feelings among students, such as those expressed in a Letter to the Editor shows that some found the responses at IWU disrespectful:
         The tragedy of Kent State should not be blown out of proportion by a                                small minority of dissenters who find it to their advantage to martyr four violent                  demonstrators as heroes of their cause. Richard Reinert and 64 other students,              May 8 Argus, p. 2

Another student used artistic expression:

1970-05-08 Argus p.3

1970-05-22_p7

 

The killings at Jackson State University in Mississippi received less coverage in the Argus but one photograph of a class walkout appears on May 22, p. 7. Other images are in the gallery below.

 

 

 

“…the whole issue of what kind of free speech students could have, and what kind of political activity and political involvement or political activism students [should] have, I would argue, was basically redefined by that era here at Wesleyan.” — former ACP member Mark Sheldon, Class of 1970, oral history interview, August 2012.

Friday, May 22: Honors Day Convocation, Ron Klipp wore an American flag upside down (universal distress symbol) upside down, walked in last and started an uproar.

Tuesday, May 26: “Seniors received a ballot Tuesday concerning whether or not Commencement should be held.”

Wednesday, May 27: “They suggested a senior caucus be held Wednesday afternoon to decide on a third alternative for a possible new ballot.” (photographs below)

Ultimately, Commencement takes place as planned on June 7 with divisions over the controversies expressed in word, deed and dress. (see photograph below and more in the 1971 Wesleyana)

Below is a gallery of images selected from the photographic negatives in the University Archives: